If you have diabetes, there is a good chance that you’ve heard somebody tell you that you shouldn’t be eating fruit. Truth is, this is just a particularly stubborn nutrition myth that refuses to go away. Fruits are nutritionally dense and contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre and can be included in any healthy eating plan. Below we go over some of the health benefits of fruit, as well as some helpful tips for incorporating fruit into a diabetes eating plan!
Many of the myths surrounding fruit most likely come from the fact that fruits contain sugar. While this is true it is important to note that all sugars are not created equal, and fructose – the sugar found in fruit – has a low glycemic index and can even be used as an alternative sweetener for people with diabetes. In clinical studies, fruit has actually been found to have beneficial effects on health and may even have a protective effect against weight gain and obesity.
Among these benefits, fruit is also full of:
Fruits are high in antioxidants which are molecules that can have a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Fruits that range from dark red to dark blue such as blueberries and red grapes are particularly high in antioxidants and are a great way to get a healthy boost from your diet. Recent studies have even shown that including berries in a healthy eating plan can help regulate blood glucose levels and regulate body weight, two added benefits for individuals with diabetes.
Vitamins & Minerals
Fruits are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals such as potassium, folate, and vitamin C. These nutrients have been found to help maintain healthy blood pressure, help heal cuts and body tissue, as well as maintain healthy teeth and gums. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant which can have a protective effect against heart disease and cancer.
Fruit is a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre, both of which can slow the digestion process and help you feel fuller without overeating. Slowing the digestion process can also prevent spikes in blood glucose and can help lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol. In order to get the maximum amount of fibre from fruit, try eating fresh, whole fruit. The cooking and/or canning process can destroy the plant cell walls that make up the body of a fruit, lowering the fibre content.
How To Include Fruit In A Healthy Eating Plan
While fruits have some amazing health benefits, it is important to limit your intake of high glycemic index fruits that are high in sugar and low in fibre. These include:
- Dried fruits
- Fruit juices
- High GI fruits such as ripe bananas, sweet mangoes and watermelon
Instead, try substituting with low glycemic index fruits like:
It’s also important to choose fresh fruit or fruit that is frozen and doesn’t contain any added sugar. If you are buying canned fruits in the grocery store, look for words like “no added sugar” or “unsweetened”.
Natural Healthy Dessert
Fruit can also be a great replacement for desserts or sweets that are highly processed and low in fibre and nutrients. A single portion of fruit (such as a medium sized apple) contains 15-20 grams of carbohydrates on average, while a slice of cake contains 35 grams of carbohydrates on average. Replacing these processed desserts with a serving of fruit can be a great way to stay healthy!
- A medium sized apple or 6-inch banana
- A handful of grapes
- 1-2 cups of raspberries
- 2 small tangerines
Try spreading out your servings of fruit throughout the day, a good rule is to stick to one serving of fruit per meal!
Overall, adding fruit to your diet can be a great way to get some amazing health benefits. Fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, and fibre and are an important part of any healthy diabetes eating plan. Remember to always speak to your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any big dietary changes, and to determine what a healthy eating plan looks like for you.
American Diabetes Association. (2021). Fruit. American Diabetes Association. https://diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/fruit.
Diabetes UK. (2021). Myth: I can’t eat fruit if I have diabetes. Diabetes UK. https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/eating-with-diabetes/diabetes-food-myths/myth-fruit-diabetes.
Harasym, J., & Oledzki, R. (2014). Effect of fruit and vegetable antioxidants on total antioxidant capacity of blood plasma. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), 30(5), 511–517. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2013.08.019
Sharma, S. P., Chung, H. J., Kim, H. J., & Hong, S. T. (2016). Paradoxical effects of fruit on obesity. Nutrients, 8(10), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8100633
Uusitupa, M. I. (1994). Fructose in the diabetic diet. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59(3 Suppl), 753S-757S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/59.3.753S